Originally printed in the NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2008 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Smoley, Richard. "From the Executive Editor." Quest 96.6 (NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2008):203.
Practically every magazine has a funny little page at the front, in which the contents of the issue are duly described as a preview for the main attraction and which usually ends with a cheery little fillip such as "We hope you like it!"
I've always had the impression that this feature largely appears in magazines through mere inertia. If you think about it, it's really rather gratuitous. Why should a magazine take a whole page to tell you what its contents are when you readily discover this by simply flipping through the issue? Those who find this too burdensome can resort to the table of contents. And yes, whether they tell you so or not, you can take it as a given that those who put a magazine together hope you enjoy it.
That's why I would like to do something a bit different with this page. Since this is the first time I'm appearing as executive editor of this magazine, an introduction is probably necessary. Some of you may remember me from my previous incarnation as editor of Gnosis, a journal of the Western inner traditions, which was published from 1985 to 1999. I still hear many kind comments about Gnosis, so I'm sure at least some of you remember the magazine. Others may have seen or read some of my books: Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions (coauthored with Gnosis's founder, Jay Kinney); Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition; The Essential Nostradamus; Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism; and most recently, Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity. On a more strictly Theosophical note, I annotated a new edition of Annie Besant's Esoteric Christianity, which was published by Quest Books in 2006. (Lest you think that this is likely to skew my perspective toward the Western standpoint, let me add that the book that I'm currently writing is largely inspired by the Samkhya, the oldest and most venerable school of Hindu philosophy.) Moreover, I've been acquisitions editor for Quest Books since 2005. At this point, while continuing to do acquisitions for Quest Books, I've stepped in as executive editor of Quest magazine as well. For those of you who want to know more, please visit my personal Web site, www.innerchristianity.com .
As usually happens with a changing of the guard, there will be some modification made to the magazine. Most of these (having to do with design) will appear in the January-February issue, but there is one that we've already decided to institute right now. Because we'd like to have more space for substantive material, particularly book reviews, we are dropping the "Quest Questions" department. (After all, we know that our members are bright enough to think of plenty of questions of their own.) I hope this will also open up space for more letters. As a matter of fact, as I was writing this piece, I received a phone call from a member asking if we take letters to the editor, because he hadn't seen one recently. The short answer is that indeed we do, and we invite them.
To return to the initial topic of what I would like to do with this page: it's quite simple. I think it ought to serve as more of an editorial page that gives my personal perspective on esoteric matters as well as on larger issues in the spiritual culture of our time. Of course, the views here are my personal ones and are not official in any way. Betty Bland still retains her post as editor of the magazine, and her views will continue to appear in her "Viewpoint" column. Since she is president of the Society, her views will be decidedly more official than mine.
All this said, there still remains the question of what this magazine ought to be and what kind of stance it ought to take on issues both internal and external. The usual tack taken by many members' journals is a bland middle way, in which strongly stated viewpoints and discussions of controversial matters are discouraged if not omitted entirely. I personally think there ought to be room for wide and disparate viewpoints, particularly in feature articles and in departments such as "Explorations" and "Thinking Allowed."
In any organization with a long tradition and an intricate body of doctrine, it's important to keep reminding ourselves that thinking is allowed. If I were to guess, I would say that the Theosophical Society consists of a small core of members who are dedicated to the memory of HPB, the Masters, and the esoteric doctrine as expounded in their works. In addition to these is a larger body of members who are not nearly so dedicated to Theosophy in this rather specific sense but adhere to the Society's core principles, including the idea that there is a universal "secret doctrine" that has been expressed over the millennia in countless and often apparently contradictory forms, and that the Theosophy formulated by HPB in the late nineteenth century was only one of these. I believe that the Society's journal should be able to accommodate both perspectives (as well as many in between) as well as including literate, stimulating, and spiritually enlivening writing from nonmembers. Whether or not you agree, I hope you will let us know. In any event, as I'm supposed to say on this page, "We hope you like it!"